Marine & RVs

Are Campers and RVs Really That Bad on Gas?

Many adventurers across the U.S. have a great love of RVing. It’s a great way to save money on travel because you’ve got accommodations and transportation covered. And with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it presents a safer solution for social distancing. Pack for your trip, stock the RV, and you’re ready to go.

The one challenge is managing fuel economy and times are currently uncertain. Is it true campers and RVs get horrible gas mileage?

A reputation for thirst

An RV tows a Jeep and outdoors gear while filling up its gas tank
Putting gas in your RV can be one of the biggest expenses of a trip. | Paul Harris/Getty Images

According to the team at Sky River RV, gas is one of your largest expenses when you travel by camper or RV. But there are ways you can manage what you spend on fuel and still enjoy your open road travels.

The Sky River team recommends starting with a game plan.  

Start by ensuring your RV is up-to-date on its regular maintenance. The maintenance schedule should be in your camper’s manual. If you don’t have that, your local service station can provide details on what needs to happen and when with your RV. 

Next, you’ll want to give some thought to how you drive your RV.  Do you generally drive at a nice, steady pace? Do you have a heavy foot on the accelerator? Drive the RV locally to get an idea of your mpg if you don’t know this already. Knowing how many miles per gallon you get with your individual driving style is helpful in managing fuel usage.

The team also recommended apps or sites, like GasBuddy.com, where you can find fuel stations along your travel route along with their current prices on fuel. It’s a great way to help keep your fuel budget in check. 

The RVs that get the best fuel economy

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If you’re shopping for an RV and looking to select one with the best possible gas mileage, the Sky River team had some suggestions.

If fuel costs are your primary concern, they recommend you consider a smaller class C RV. 

But weighing your options is always a good idea. Class A motorhomes have many benefits, the team points out, like more features and an abundance of space. 

USA Today offered a list of RVs with the best gas mileage and two of their selections were recommended by the Sky River team. According to USA Today, the Thor Palazzo gets as much as 12.9 mpg and it’s customizable. The Class A RV is available in six different floor plans. It features LED ceiling lighting, heated exterior mirrors, privacy shades for the living area, and more.

The Newmar Dutch Star is another RV that made the USA Today list. It can get up to 11 mpg and has 18 floor plans to choose from. It offers a slew of great features like LED ceiling and overhead cabinet lights, solid bath, bed, and kitchen countertops, nightstand USB chargers, and more.

GVW and what it means for your gas mileage

The weight of your RV and its Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) are two different things. The weight of your RV is pretty simple to acquire and understand. The GVW pertains to the RV’s maximum operating mass specified by the manufacturer. It includes the body, chassis, engine, accessories, engine fluids, gas, driver, passengers, cargo, and any trailers.

Knowing the GVW can be immensely helpful in fine-tuning your gas mileage strategy. The Sky River team mentioned that there are many online calculators available to help you determine the GVW for your RV.

If you’re looking for an RV that gets good gas mileage, the team at Sky River explains that the bigger the vehicle, the more fuel it consumes. A smaller class C camper can get from 10 to 15 mpg. You could get 18 to 20 mpg with a class B rig. With a huge class A RV you are likely to get 8 to 13 mpg at best.

The Sky River team says it’s the same concept with fifth-wheels and travel trailers. The bigger it is, the more diesel or gas it will use.